Showing posts with label Pop. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Pop. Show all posts

27 February 2024

Chiara Iezzi - singer and actress

One half of popular duo Paola e Chiara

Chiara Iezzi has enjoyed success both as a singer and in tv and film roles
Chiara Iezzi has enjoyed success both
as a singer and in tv and film roles
The actress and singer Chiara Iezzi, who with sister Paola forms half of the top-selling Paola e Chiara pop duo, was born on this day in 1973 in Milan.

The sisters performed together for seven years between 1996 and 2013, selling more than five million records, before breaking up, Chiara deciding to focus increasingly on acting and enjoying some success in the United States.

The duo were reunited in 2023, when they took part in the Sanremo Music Festival for the sixth time, having made their debut at the celebrated Italian song contest 26 years earlier.

Interested in music, acting and fashion since she was in her teens, Chiara graduated in fashion design, simultaneously taking acting lessons, but it was music that initially provided her with a career.

After seeing her perform in jazz and funk groups, in 1994 the record producer and television presenter Claudio Cecchetto hired her together with Paola to join singer Max Pezzali as backing vocalists in a group called 883, who were popular in Milan in the 1990s.

Paola (left) and Chiara with the trophy they won at the Sanremo Music Festival in 1997
Paola (left) and Chiara with the trophy they won
at the Sanremo Music Festival in 1997
Two years later, the sisters began to perform as Paola e Chiara, signing a recording contract with Sony Music Italia. Aged 21 and 22 respectively, they made their debut at the 1996 edition of Sanremo Giovani - a special contest for young artists, held separately from the main event - making the final with their song, In viaggio.

The following year, they entered Sanremo proper, performing the song Amici come prima, with which they won the New Proposals category.

The song featured on their debut studio album for Sony, Ciriamo Bambine, which would be the first of eight studio albums. They also released three collections of hits and 35 singles, the most successful of which was Vamos a bailar (Esta vida nueva), sung in Spanish and released in 2000.

Performing Vamos a bailar, which featured on their album Television, they won two song contests, Festivalbar and Un disco per l'estate. The single contributed substantially to their more than five million records sold.

Alongside her career with Paola, Chiara released a number of singles and EPs as a solo performer before turning her attention increasingly to acting, her ambitions not at all harmed by being invited in 2010 to collaborate on the soundtrack of the film Maledimiele, directed by Marco Pozzi, for which she sang the main theme, L'altra parte di me. 

Chiara Iezzi starred in the Disney Channel  television series Alex & Co in 2015
Chiara Iezzi starred in the Disney Channel 
television series Alex & Co in 2015
It prompted her to resume her study of acting, for which she spent increasing amounts of time in America, attending seminars in New York and Los Angeles. After the break-up of the Paola e Chiara partnership, she announced her intention to limit her singing career to projects connected to the film industry.

She had a number of successes in acting, notably playing the role of Victoria Williams in the 2015 TV series Alex & Co, produced by Disney Channel.

In 2016, she landed a role in the film Il ragazzo della Giudecca (The Boy from the Giudecca), directed by Alfonso Bergamo and starring Giancarlo Giannini and Franco Nero, and in 2017 was picked for Louis Nero's film The Broken Key alongside Rutger Hauer, William Baldwin, Geraldine Chaplin and Michael Madsen.

The possibility that she and her sister might reform their partnership arose in 2022. Chiara appeared at a DJ set hosted by her sister, for whom deejaying had become the focus of her career, and they surprised the audience by performing a number of their songs together. The clip of their performance was downloaded so many times it became a viral hit, after which they agreed to make an appearance as guests at a concert in Bibione, on the Adriatic coast of the Veneto, which was part of a Max Pezzali tour, and alongside Jovanotti at Fermo, further down the Adriatic in Marche. 

They were so well received by the audiences that talk of a Paola e Chiara revival soon gathered pace. In December of the same year it was announced that they would participate in the 2023 edition of the Sanremo Festival, their first appearance there for 15 years.

Their song, Furore, finished only 17th, yet was a hit nonetheless, prompting them to embark on a first tour in 12 years and to release their first album since 2015, a reworked collection of their best work entitled Per Sempre (Forever).

The duo returned to Sanremo in 2024 as guests, reprising Furore on the third evening and performing alongside veteran entrants Ricchi e Poveri on the fourth evening, as well as presenting some of the accompanying broadcasts as national TV channel Rai dedicated hours of airtime to the festival and peripheral activities.

Bibione's wide expanse of golden, sandy beach makes it an attraction for thousands of tourists
Bibione's wide expanse of golden, sandy beach
makes it an attraction for thousands of tourists
Travel tip:

Bibione, where Paola e Chiara reunited alongside former professional partner Max Pezzali at a 2022 concert, is a seaside resort in the Veneto region of northern Italy, about 50km (31 miles) from Venice as the crow flies, although about twice that distance by road. It is a popular destination for tourists from Germany, Austria, Czech Republic, and Slovakia, as well as Italy, who enjoy its golden sand beach, pine wood, and water park. The area used to be uninhabited marshland until land reclamation work began in the early part of the 20th century and it was not until the 1950s that the first holiday accommodation was built. Nowadays, in the summer months, Bibione can offer up to 100,000 beds for tourists, yet in the winter is largely deserted, with many shops and beach facilities closed.

Stay in Bibione with

Fermo sits atop the Sabulo hill, the cathedral of Santa Maria Assunta in Cielo at its highest point
Fermo sits atop the Sabulo hill, the cathedral of
Santa Maria Assunta in Cielo at its highest point
Travel tip:

Fermo, where Paola e Chaira performed at a Jovanotti concert in 2022, is a charming and lively town in the Marche region, with a population of about 37,000. It is located on a hill, the Sabulo, some 319m (1,050ft) above sea level, about 7km (4.34 miles) inland from the Adriatic resort of Porto San Giorgio. A former Roman colony, it was owned by a succession of prince-bishops and powerful families, including the Visconti and Sforza, before becoming part of the Papal States in 1550, all of whom contributed to its impressive monuments, buildings and fortifications. The Roman cisterns, the 13th century cathedral of Santa Maria Assunta in Cielo, the Palazzo dei Priori, built between the 13th and 16th centuries, the Pinacoteca Civica and the Teatro dell’Aquila are among its noteworthy attractions. The town hosts diverse cultural events, from an August palio (horse race) and festival of mediaeval games, the Cavalcata dell’Assunta, to an annual film festival.  The town is also famed for its culinary specialities, which include a type of lasagna with meat sauce, olives, and cheese, called vincisgrassi, a fish soup with tomatoes, saffron, and vinegar known as brodetto, and frustingo, a cake made with dried fruits, nuts, honey, and chocolate.

Find accommodation in Fermo with

More reading:

The history of the Sanremo Music Festival

The singer whose Sanremo disqualification produced his biggest hit

The tenor who became known as ‘the King of Sanremo’

Also on this day:

1950: The birth of fashion designer Franco Moschino

1935: The birth of opera singer Mirella Freni

1964: Italy appeals for help to save Pisa’s leaning tower

1978: The birth of dancer Simone Di Pasquale

(Picture credits: Bibione beach by Tiesse; Fermo skyline by Daniele Pieroni; via Wikimedia Commons)


7 February 2024

Vasco Rossi - singer-songwriter

Controversial rock star still performing

Vasco Rossi has been one of Italy's biggest stars for almost 40 years
Vasco Rossi has been one of Italy's
biggest stars for almost 40 years
Vasco Rossi, a singer-songwriter in the rock genre who has sold more than 40 million records since releasing his first single in 1977, was born on this day in 1952 in Zocca, a village in a mountainous region of Emilia-Romagna.

Rossi, who has attracted criticism for his lifestyle and for the sometimes controversial content of his songs, enjoys a huge following among fans of Italian rock music.  An open-air concert he performed in Modena in 2017 sold 225,173 tickets, a record for tickets sold by any artist anywhere in the world.

Describing himself as a provocautore - a writer who provokes - he has written more than 250 songs, nine of which have been number one in the Italian singles charts, and made more than 30 albums, including five that were the best-selling album for the year of their release.

The enormous public enthusiasm for his work has not always been shared by the critics. Although his albums have won him many awards within his own sector of the music industry, when he appeared at the Sanremo Music Festival in 1982, the judging panel placed him bottom, reportedly in protest at the lyrics and his on-stage behaviour, which they thought was disrespectful to the competition. 

Despite his success, Rossi has at times struggled with alcohol and drug addictions and depression yet has used the darker periods in his life as the inspiration for songs.  Following his arrest and brief imprisonment for cocaine possession in the 1980s, he produced an album entitled Bollicine - Little Bubbles - that featured lyrics about drug use, attracting more opprobrium but at the same time helping secure his status as a rock icon.

Rossi in the 1970s, at the start of his career
Rossi in the 1970s, at
the start of his career
Rossi’s father, Carlo, was a truck driver, his mother, Novella, a housewife. It was Novella, herself an enthusiastic music fan, who had an inkling about his singing ability, enrolling him for singing lessons as a small child. He soon developed a love for music, joining his first band at the age of 14.  After the family had moved to Bologna, he studied accountancy at high school before enrolling for a degree course in Business and Economics at the University of Bologna, which he eventually abandoned.

Instead of equipping himself for a career in finance or business, he worked as a DJ, setting up the Punta Club, a party venue, before teaming up with some friends to open Punta Radio, one of Italy’s first private radio stations.  His own early recordings tended to get their first airing on Punta Radio.

His first EP was released in 1977, including the songs Jenny è pazza and Silvia, followed by his debut album the following year, and has brought out a new album almost every year since, an extraordinary output.  It took a few years to achieve peak popularity, while the shock of his father’s death in 1979 from a stroke at the age of just 56 almost persuaded him to quit. But by the late 1980s his albums were selling in huge numbers and he had to move from traditional concert venues into stadiums such as the Stadio Giuseppe Meazza - better known as San Siro - in Milan, territory usually reserved for international superstars such as U2 and Madonna.

An aerial shot of the crowd of more than 225,000 fans who saw Rossi's 2017 concert in Modena
An aerial shot of the crowd of more than 225,000
fans who saw Rossi's 2017 concert in Modena
Between 2001 and 2014, five of his albums - Stupido hotel (2001), Tracks (2002), Buoni o cattivi (2004), Vivere o niente (2011) and Sono innocente (2014) - outsold all other albums in Italy in the year of their release.  Yet he remains largely unknown outside Europe, a phenomenon he has claimed is down to overseas markets, specifically the British and American markets, being rigged.

He announced in 2011 that he was retiring from touring, yet was back on stage only two years later. In his career he has performed in more than 800 concerts, watched by more than 10 million fans. He has more dates planned this year.

Rossi has three children Davide and Lorenzo - both born in 1986 - and Luca, born in 1991, all by different partners. He married Luca’s mother, Laura Schmidt, in a low-key ceremony in Zocca in 2012.

Zocca occupies a hillside location around 45km (28 miles) southeast of Modena in Emilia-Romagna
Zocca occupies a hillside location around 45km
(28 miles) southeast of Modena in Emilia-Romagna
Travel tip:

Vasco Rossi’s home village of Zocca in Emilia-Romagna can be found around 45km (28 miles) southeast of Modena and a similar distance southwest of Bologna. It sits on the eastern side of the mountain that divides the Panaro River Valley from the Reno and Samoggia Valleys. It enjoys a strategically favourable position, which was reflected in mediaeval history by the  establishment of a number of castles in the area and more recently by its importance in World War Two as a stronghold of the Italian resistance movement.  Zocca has a pleasant centre characterised by elegant shops and a number of interesting churches, including the neo-Romanesque chiesa del Sacro Cuore di Gesù and the Santuario della Verucchia, which has its origins in the 12th century.  A music festival in Zocca was established by Rossi’s friend, Massimo Riva, and rock fans visit the area in large numbers in the summer months, attracted by a tour organised by the Visit Modena tourist office. A chestnut festival takes place every October.

The magnificent Baroque architecture of the Ducal Palace is one of the main attractions of Modena
The magnificent Baroque architecture of the Ducal
Palace is one of the main attractions of Modena
Travel tip:

Modena, where Vasco Rossi set a world record for ticket sales for his 2017 concert at the Enzo Ferrari Park motor racing venue, is a city on the south side of the Po Valley in the Emilia-Romagna region It is known for its car industry, as Ferrari, De Tomaso, Lamborghini, Pagani and Maserati have all been located there. The city is also well known for producing balsamic vinegar, while operatic tenor Luciano Pavarotti and soprano Mirella Freni were both born in Modena.  One of the main sights in Modena is the huge, baroque Ducal Palace, which was begun by Francesco I on the site of a former castle in 1635. His architect, Luigi Bartolomeo Avanzini, created a home for him that few European princes could match at the time. The palace is now home to the Italian national military academy. In the Galleria Estense, on the upper floor of the Palazzo dei Musei in Modena, the one-metre high bust of Francesco I d’Este, Duke of Modena, by Gian Lorenzo Bernini, still seems to be commanding the city.

Also on this day:

1497: Preacher Girolamo Savonarola’s ‘bonfire of the vanities’

1622: The birth of Vittoria delle Rovere, Grand Duchess of Tuscany

1878: The death of Pope Pius IX

1909: The birth of cavalry officer Amedeo Guillet

1941: The birth of pop singer Little Tony


23 April 2023

Milva - singer and actress

Popular star of five decades

Milva pictured at the start of her career in 1961, when she made her debut at Sanremo
Milva pictured at the start of her career in
1961, when she made her debut at Sanremo
The singer and actress known as Milva died on this day in 2021 in Milan at the age of 81.

Born Maria Ilva Biolcati in Goro, a fishing village on the Po delta, her popularity was such that she sold more than 80 million records. Her output was extraordinary, running to 126 singles and a staggering 173 albums in a career spanning more than half a century. No Italian artist has recorded so many albums.

For a time she bestrode the pop world, earning the nickname La Pantera di Goro  - The Panther of Goro - as recognition by the Italian media of her status as one of the three best-loved female performers of her generation, alongside Mina - dubbed the Tiger of Cremona - and Iva Zanicchi, who found herself labelled the Eagle of Ligonchio. 

Yet Milva was equally at home with musical theatre and opera and earned plaudits early in career when she sang Édith Piaf's repertoire at the prestigious Olympia theatre in Paris.  She was said to have an uncanny ability to sing almost any kind of music in any language after listening to it just once.

Her versatility enabled her to adapt to new trends in music and prolong her career. She had turned 70 by the time she announced her retirement from performing in 2010, although there was still time for one more album and a single, sung in German, in 2012.

The daughter of a dressmaker and a fisherman, as a child Milva had to work to support her family during tough times economically for Italy in the years after World War Two.

Milva in the 1980s, when she began a collaboration with Greek composer, Vangelis
Milva in the 1980s, when she began a
collaboration with Greek composer, Vangelis
In her late teens she moved to Bologna, enrolled for singing and acting lessons and won a singing contest in which she was judged the best out of more than 7,500 entrants.

After recording her first single in 1960 with an Édith Piaf's song Milord, she made her live debut at the Sanremo Music Festival in 1961, finishing third. Over her career, Milva would enter Sanremo 15 times, a record for the number of appearances that she holds jointly with Peppino Di Capri, Toto Cutugno, Al Bano and Anna Oxa, although she never won, finishing second twice and third three times.

She demonstrated her versatility the following year with her performance of the Piaf repertoire in Paris, amazing both the audience and critics in the way she could sing in French with the emotion that Piaf brought to her work.

Nicknamed La Rossa because of her voluminous red hair, Milva’s ‘60s output included popular songs but also an eclectic mix of other material, including collections of Italian songs of the 1920s and ‘30s, revolutionary anthems and tango classics. She also appeared in a number of films and starred in Giorgio Strehler's stage production of Brecht's The Threepenny Opera.

In the ‘70s, when she was similarly prolific, she released albums in German and Japanese as well as Italian, and toured Italy, the USA, Greece, France, Germany, Canada, Russia and Japan. The ‘80s saw her begin a long-running collaboration with Vangelis, the Greek composer of electronic and progressive music, and devote much energy to fund-raising, either through albums or stage performances.

Milva during a performance in 2009, captivating audiences at the age of 70
Milva during a performance in 2009,
captivating audiences at the age of 70
One of her most memorable hits was the song Alexander Platz, written by the Italian songwriter Franco Battiato in 1982, which explored love in divided Berlin during the Cold War years, its name inspired by the Berlin square, Alexanderplatz, a popular meeting place.

Perhaps uniquely, for her contribution to the culture of the three respective countries, she was awarded the highest honours from three governments: the Order of Merit of both the Italian and German republics, and the Knighthood of the French Légion d'Honneur.

She began to slow down only at the end of the 2000s, when she concluded that she was unable to reach the high standards she had always set for himself.

Married once, from 1961 to 1969, to the film and TV director Maurizio Corgnati, she was said also to have had romantic relationships with the actor Mario Piave, the lyricist Massimo Gallerani, and another actor Luigi Pistilli. 

She had a daughter, Martina, with whom she was living at the time of her death, which came after a period of illness attributed to a degenerative neurological disease.  After a private funeral, Milva’s body was laid to rest at the cemetery at Blevio, a small lakeside town on Lago di Como where she had a house.

Milva's home village of Goro sits on the edge of the beautiful Po Delta regional park
Milva's home village of Goro sits on the edge of
the beautiful Po Delta regional park
Travel tip:

Goro, where Maria Ilva Biocati was born, is a fishing village on the edge of the protected Po Delta regional park, situated on the Emilia-Romagna side of the border with Veneto.  The Sacca di Goro, a large lagoon enclosed between the Po di Goro and the Po di Volano rivers, is an ideal habitat for mullet, sea bream, sea bass and for breeding of mussels, oysters and veracious clams, including the rare Golden Oyster of Goro, which is considered a delicacy, The Sagra della Vongola, Goro’s clam festival, takes place during the month of July each year, allowing visitors to enjoy the flavours and traditions of the area.

A story in La Repubblica newspaper about Casa  Milva's role in the Insula Felix Foundation
A story in La Repubblica newspaper about Casa 
Milva's role in the Insula Felix Foundation
Travel tip:

Milva’s home in Milan for 40 years was an apartment in an art nouveau palace in Via Serbelloni, an elegant area of the city between Porta Venezia and the Fashion Quarter. Recently, Milva’s daughter, art critic Martina Corgnati, has established the apartment, at No 9 Via Serbelloni, as the headquarters of the Insula Felix Foundation, which was set up by her late mother in 1984 as a non-profit institution as a place of research, the celebration of culture and for the support of young scholars, also promoting innovative forms of support for people with mental illness or neurological-psychiatric problems. 

Also on this day:

1554: The death of poet Gaspara Stampa

1857: The birth of opera composer Ruggero Leoncavallo

1939: The birth of Mafia boss Stefano Bontade

1964: The birth of leading conductor Gianandrea Noseda


5 March 2023

Lucio Battisti - singer-songwriter

Musician credited with writing ‘the soundtrack of Italian life’

Lucio Battisti, pictured performing at the  Sanremo Music Festival in 1969
Lucio Battisti, pictured performing at the
 Sanremo Music Festival in 1969
Lucio Battisti, who was one of the most influential figures in Italian pop and rock music in a career spanning four decades, was born on this day in 1943 in Poggio Bustone, a hillside village in the province of Rieti in Lazio, about 100km (62 miles) northeast of Rome.

A songwriter, singer and composer, his work has been described as defining popular music in Italy in the late 1960s and the 1970s in particular, although his popularity continued right up to his death, at the age of just 55, in 1998.

Some music critics and music historians have credited Battisti with writing ‘the soundtrack of our lives’ for several generations of young people, citing songs such as Emozioni (Emotions), Acqua azzurra, acqua chiara (Blue Water, Clear Water), Il mio canto libero (My Free Song) and La canzone del sole (The Song of the Sun) as his most memorable, although there were many more that made their mark.

Of Battisti’s 18 studio albums, 13 reached number one in the Italian charts, while he had at least 10 number one singles, of which his 1971 recording Pensieri e parole (Thoughts and Words) remained in top spot for 14 weeks.

At times during his career, he was spoken of as Italy’s Bob Dylan or Italy’s David Bowie, not for the style of his music as much as the fact that he enjoyed similar status as a cultural icon. Bowie spoke of his admiration for Battisti’s work, as did Bowie’s guitarist, Mick Ronson. The two made a cover version of Il mio canto libero, which Ronson went on to include on his debut solo album, Slaughter on 10th Avenue, under the title Music is Lethal.

Giulio Rapetti, better known as Mogol, wrote many of Battisti's lyrics
Giulio Rapetti, better known as Mogol,
wrote many of Battisti's lyrics
Among other international artists who covered or adapted Battisti’s compositions were the English group Amen Corner, whose 1968 hit (If Paradise Is) Half as Nice was based on Battisti’s Il paradiso della vita.

Much of Battisti’s success stemmed from his partnership with the Italian songwriter Giulio Rapetti, better known by his pen name, Mogol. They worked together for 15 years from the mid ‘60s to the early ‘80s, during which time Mogol’s captivating, emotional lyrics combined with Battisti’s innovative music to take the Italian pop scene by storm.

The son of a customs inspector, Battisti moved with his family to Rome at the age of four, settling in Pigneto, a working class neighbourhood to the southeast of the city centre, just beyond Termini station. Having taught himself the guitar, he began to play with bands in Rome and then Naples as a teenager. 

He enjoyed Naples, where he played with a group called I Mattatori, but did not earn enough to sustain himself and was forced to return to Rome. In the event, this proved fortuitous. Lead guitar with another local band, I Satiri, he found himself playing on the same bill as I Campioni, the support band to the then-famous Italian singer, Tony Dallara, who were in need of a guitarist and offered him the chance to move to Milan and work with them.

Once established in Milan, he was spotted by Christine Leroux, a French-born music producer who worked as a talent scout for the Italian label, Ricordi. It was she that introduced him to Mogol.

Battisti in Milan with his future wife, Grazia Letizia Veronese
Battisti in Milan with his future
wife, Grazia Letizia Veronese
Their output provided hits for major Italian artists such as Mina, Ornella Vanoni and Patty Pravo, before ultimately Battisti’s own, unusually versatile vocals, which displayed at times soft, velvety tones, piercing falsetto moments and the gritty power of rock, became their trademark. Their songs were less dominated by political messages than many popular artists of their era, but young, urban Italians in particular seemed to identify with Mogol’s lyrics as a reflection of their own lives. 

Not long after recording his 1974 album Anima latina (Latin Soul), the collection of songs considered to be Battisti's most complex musical offering, which remained at number one in the Italian charts for 13 weeks, Battisti became something of a recluse, declining to make public appearances or give interviews, declaring his new belief that “an artist should communicate with the public only through his work”.

His partnership with Mogol broke up in 1981, an amicable split stemming from their diversion in styles as Battisti became interested in more experimental, electronic sounds. Nonetheless, his success continued, with three more chart-topping albums, including Don Giovanni (1986), for which the poet Pasquale Panella wrote the lyrics. He also recorded some songs written by his wife, Grazia Letizia Veronese, who he had married in the late 1970s and with whom he had a son, Luca.

When Battisti died on 9 September 1998, aged only 55, the Italian music world was plunged into profound shock. It had become known in late August that he had been hospitalised in Milan, but his family respected his desire for privacy and issued no bulletins on his condition. The cause of his death was never officially confirmed, although it was thought to be the result either of a lymphoma that affected his liver, or a disease of the kidneys.

His passing was marked at a small private funeral in Molteno, the hilltop town in the beautiful Brianza area between Milan and Lake Como where he had lived since the early 1970s. There were just 20 guests, including Mogol, who had for a while occupied a neighbouring villa. 

Pigneto has undergone a revival recently and now has a thriving cafe culture
Pigneto has undergone a revival recently and
now has a thriving cafe culture
Travel tip:

Battisti’s home growing up in Rome, Piazzale Prenestina, is an area dominated by the convergence of multiple rail tracks leading to Roma Termini station and an elevated section of Rome’s orbital motorway, the Grande Raccordo Anulare. It lies at the entrance to Pigneto, an area once largely working class and industrial that has evolved in recent years into a trendy neighbourhood of alternative shops, vintage stores, and diverse bars and restaurants, popular with students. The area was badly bombed during World War II, as a consequence of which it was chosen by the director Roberto Rossellini for location shooting for his neorealist classic, Roma Città Aperta - Rome, Open City. The district was a favourite, too, of another director, Pier Paolo Pasolini. 

A steep staircase leads to Molteno's Chiesa di San Giorgio
A steep staircase leads to Molteno's
Chiesa di San Giorgio
Travel tip:

Battisti’s home in northern Italy - he also kept an apartment in Rome and a villa in Rimini - was in Molteno, a small town about 35km (22 miles) northeast of Milan, about equidistant between the lakes of Como and Lecco in Brianza, an area of natural beauty. The town itself, originally built on the site of a Roman settlement, fans out from Piazza Risorgimento, at the foot of il Ceppo - the summit of the town - from which the parish church of San Giorgio oversees the surrounding area. Battisti’s villa was at Dosso di Coroldo, a hamlet just outside Molteno. Battisti was said to be a frequent diner at Ristorante Riva in Via Roma, where he and Mogol would often meet up with other musicians, many of them famous names in Italy at the time, to enjoy the food and wine and sometimes give impromptu performances.

Also on this day:

1696: The birth of painter and printmaker Giovanni Battista Tiepolo

1827: The death of scientist Alessandro Volta

1834: The birth of soprano Marietta Piccolomini

1922: The birth of film director Pier Paolo Pasolini


27 July 2021

Peppino di Capri – singer and song writer

Performer ushered Italy into the rock ‘n roll era

Peppino di Capri was dubbed the 'Buddy Holly of Italy'
Peppino di Capri was dubbed
the 'Buddy Holly of Italy'
Pop legend Peppino di Capri was born Giuseppe Faiella on this day in 1939 on the island of Capri in southern Italy.

A hugely successful singer, songwriter and pianist in Italy and throughout Europe, Di Capri, affectionately known as the Italian Buddy Holly, has had many international hits.

He began singing and playing the piano, by instinct, at the age of four, following in his father’s footsteps, and he provided entertainment for the American troops stationed on Capri during World War II.  His father owned a record shop and also sold musical instruments.  

Di Capri studied classical music for five years until he discovered rock music in the 1950s. He recorded his first album in 1958 with his band, The Rockers, including some Neapolitan songs, and he had instant success.

For the next few years, Di Capri recorded some of his biggest hits, such as Voce e Notte, Luna Caprese, Let’s Twist Again and Roberta. He introduced the twist to Italy with his song, St Tropez Twist.

In 1965 he was the opening act at the concerts of The Beatles, during the only Italian tour they ever made, and he then went on to found his own record label and recording studio.

Peppino di Capri has been  singing for more than 60 years
Peppino di Capri has been
 singing for more than 60 years 
Di Capri won the Festival of Sanremo in 1973 and 1976 and took part in 15 editions of the  Italian song contest.

In 1998, Di Capri celebrated his first 40 years in the music business with a show in the famous Piazzetta of Capri, which was broadcast on Rai Uno, the national TV station.

Since 2003, Di Capri has recorded several albums, including some of his best songs and some traditional Neapolitan songs. He topped the charts with a collection of his songs in 2009 and later launched a DVD set with a live concert at the Parco della Musica in Rome.

In 2013, Di Capri toured theatres with a concert, in which the orchestra was conducted by his son, Edoardo. He toured Brazil in 2015 and then appeared in the comedy film, Natale col Boss, playing the role of a mob boss.

In 2018, Di Capri celebrated the first 60 years of his singing career with a concert at the oldest opera theatre in the world, the Teatro di San Carlo in Naples, which was sold out soon after the tickets went on sale.

Eternally youthful and popular, Di Capri celebrates his 82nd birthday today.

Piazza Umberto I in Capri, better known locally as La Piazzetta
Piazza Umberto I in Capri, better
known locally as La Piazzetta
Travel tip:

Capri has been a popular resort since Roman times and the remains exist of a number of Imperial Roman villas.  Although its first known tourist was a French antiques dealer who visited in the 17th century, recording his impressions in diaries, it was not until the 1950s that the island began to attract visitors in anything like the numbers of today.   Tourists arrive at the island by ferry or hydrofoil from Naples, Sorrento, Positano, Amalfi and other ports around the Gulf of Naples.  Attractions include the Blue Grotto, the picturesque Marina Piccola, the limestone Faraglioni sea stacks, and the towns of Capri and Anacapri.

The Teatro di San Carlo in Naples, opened in 1737, predates even La Scala in Milan
The Teatro di San Carlo in Naples, opened
in 1737, predates even La Scala in Milan
Travel tip:

Teatro di San Carlo in Naples, where Di Capri celebrated 60 years in the music business, is in Via San Carlo close to Piazza Plebiscito, the main square in Naples. The theatre was designed by Giovanni Antonio Medrano for the Bourbon King of Naples, Charles I, and opened in 1737, some 41 years before Teatro alla Scala in Milan and 55 years before La Fenice in Venice. San Carlo is now believed to be one of the oldest, if not the oldest, functioning opera houses in the world. Both Gaetano Donizetti and Gioachino Rossini served as artistic directors at San Carlo and the world premieres of Donizetti’s Lucia di Lammermoor and Rossini’s Mosè were performed there.

Also on this day:

1835: The birth of Nobel prize-winning poet Giosuè Carducci

1915: The birth of tenor Mario Del Monaco

1922: The birth of actor and director Adolfo Celi


4 October 2020

Ignazio Boschetto – tenor

Talented singer is known for being the funny guy in Il Volo

Ignazio Boschetto
Ignazio Boschetto sang operatic
arias even as a child
Ignazio Boschetto, a singer in the award-winning pop and opera trio Il Volo, was born on this day in 1994 in Bologna in the region of Emilia-Romagna.

His Sicilian parents, Vito Boschetto and Caterina Licari, took him back to live in Sicily and he grew up in Marsala in the province of Trapani in the most western part of Sicily.

He has said in interviews that from being about three years old he used to sing operatic arias alone in his room, such as La donna e mobile from Rigoletto by Giuseppe Verdi, much to the surprise of his parents.

Ignazio could be classed as a lyric tenor, considering the timbre of his voice, which is warm and soft, but strong enough to sing over an orchestra. A complete artist, Ignazio also plays the piano, guitar and drums.

When he was 12 he started to take part in festivals and competitions and in December 2007 he reached the finals of the Premio Nave Punica, winning third place among competitors of all ages.

The following year he won the 11th Festival della Canzone di Custonaci singing Il mare calmo della sera. In December, when he had turned 13, he won the third edition of the Premio Nave Punica, thrilling the audience at the Teatro Impero in Marsala with his performance.

Ignazio Boschetto and Piero Barone of Il Volo
Boschetto shares a joke onstage with his fellow
Il Volo singer Piero Barone
The following year he took part in the RAI talent show Ti lascio una canzone. He was selected, along with Piero Barone and Gianluca Ginoble, the other members of Il Volo, to compete in the second edition of the competition.

In the fourth episode of the show, he sang O sole mio along with Gianluca and Piero and it was then that the concept of Il Volo was born.

The director of the show, Roberto Cenci, had the idea of putting them together to create a trio similar to the Three Tenors – the legendary Placido Domingo, Jose Carreras and Luciano Pavarotti.

The group was initially named I Tre Tenorini - the Three Little Tenors - but this was later changed to The Tryo. In 2010 their name was changed again to Il Volo, which in English means The Flight.

Il Volo - Gianluca Ginoble, Piero Barone and Ignazio Boschetto
Il Volo - Gianluca Ginoble, Piero Barone and
Ignazio Boschetto - have been together since 2009
Il Volo won the Sanremo music festival in 2015 and represented Italy in the Eurovision Song Contest that year with Grande Amore, coming third, although they had won the televote and the press award for the best song.

In 2016, with Placido Domingo, they released Notte Magica - A tribute to the Three Tenors.

By then, Ignazio had established the reputation of being the funny guy of the group, his natural gift for humour winning him many fans.

In 2019, Il Volo released their compilation album, Il Volo: The best of 10 years, to celebrate their tenth anniversary.

Il Volo have won numerous awards including Billboard Latin awards and Wind Music Awards and the trio have completed tours all over the world.

The Porta Garibaldi was renamed in honour of the Italian unification leader
The Porta Garibaldi was renamed in honour
of the Italian unification leader
Travel tip:

As a tourist destination, Marsala is somewhat overshadowed by nearby Trapani and the Greek city of Selinunte, which has the remains of five temples.  Yet the town has plenty of history of its own and its archaeological museum is considered worth a visit. It is also well known for its fortified wine and as the port where Giuseppe Garibaldi landed in 1860 with his Expedition of the Thousand, an integral part of the sequence of events that culminated in the unification of Italy.

A sweeping view of the bay on which sits the picturesque port of Trapani
A sweeping view of the bay on which sits
the picturesque port of Trapani
Travel tip:

Situated on the western coast of Sicily, Trapani is a fishing and ferry port notable for a curving harbour, where Peter of Aragon landed in 1282 to begin the Spanish occupation of Sicily. Well placed strategically to trade with Africa as well as the Italian mainland, Trapani was once the hub of a commercial network that stretched from Carthage in what is now Tunisia to Venice. Nowadays, the port is used by ferries serving Tunisia and the smaller islands, as well as other Italian ports.  The older part of the town, on a promontory with the sea on either side, has some crumbling palaces and others that have been well restored, as well as a number of military fortifications and notable churches.

Also on this day:

1633: The birth of groundbreaking physician Bernardino Ramazzini

1657: The birth of painter Francesco Solimena

1720: The birth of printmaker Giovanni Battista Piranesi

The Feast of St Francis of Assisi


6 April 2020

Sergio Franchi – tenor

Budding opera star became popular for singing romantic ballads

Sergio Franchi's voice first gained  recognition in South Africa
Sergio Franchi's voice first gained
recognition in South Africa
The tenor and actor Sergio Franchi was born Sergio Franci Galli on this day in 1926 in Codogno in the province of Lodi in northern Italy.

Franchi earned recognition as a performer in Britain in the 1960s and subsequently went to America where he became such a success he was once invited by John F Kennedy to sing the US national anthem at a rally.

Franchi was born to a Neapolitan father and a Ligurian mother who were living in Codogno in the Lombardy region. As a child he sang with his father who played the piano and guitar.

When he was 16, Franchi formed a band to earn extra money and went on to sing with a male group in jazz clubs.

Franchi’s father was a successful businessman but he lost all his assets during the German occupation of Italy in World War II.

After the war a family friend suggested to Franchi’s father that he should emigrate to South Africa where there were more opportunities for work. The whole family moved to Johannesburg in 1947.

Franchi worked initially for his father but also began singing in informal concerts. His voice soon attracted attention and he was offered roles in musicals.

Franchi's career took a new direction after opera   failed to provide an income to support his family
Franchi's career took a new direction after opera
 failed to provide an income to support his family 
Alessandro Rota, a successful operatic tenor who had moved to Johannesburg, helped form the National Opera Association and began producing operatic concerts. Taught by Rota, Franchi’s voice matured and his vocal range and technique developed.

He was given the leading tenor roles in Puccini’s Madam Butterfly and Verdi’s La traviata.

Franchi returned to Italy to seek more opportunities to become an opera singer. He reached the finals of a competition at La Scala in Milan and secured a role in an opera at a minor theatre. But with a wife and children to support by then, he had to look for other opportunities to earn money.

He began recording for Durium records, having hits with ‘Amore mio’ and ‘I tuoi occhi verde’, and he then made an album of Italian songs.

An English agent encouraged him to travel to London, where he made two appearances on Sunday Night at the London Palladium. This was to bring him to the attention of RCA Victor in America, who soon gave him a recording contract.

After Franchi’s first album was released in America in 1962 he appeared on the Ed Sullivan Show and also made his concert debut at Carnegie Hall, singing without a microphone. He was to become one of Ed Sullivan’s favourite guests.

Sergio Franchi with Ed Sullivan (left), on whose show he made regular guest appearances
Sergio Franchi with Ed Sullivan (left), on whose show he
made regular guest appearances
In 1963 Franchi was asked to sing the national anthem by President Kennedy at a rally and he bought a record to help him learn the words. This turned out to be a good move because he was able to reassure the President before the performance when he asked if Franchi knew all the words to the anthem. He later sang for Ladybird Johnson and President Ronald Reagan.

Franchi became a US citizen in 1972 and continued to enjoy a glittering career in America.

The last of Franchi’s 130 television appearances was in July 1989 and his last concert was later that month. While rehearsing for his next concert in August, Franchi collapsed and was taken to hospital. Tests revealed a brain tumour and despite treatment he died in May 1990, less than a month after his 64th birthday.

Franchi had supported the arts and many charities throughout his career and for his support for Italian children’s charities he was posthumously awarded the title of Cavaliere in the Order of Merit (stella al merito del lavoro) by the Italian government in 2001.

The church of Santi Teodoro e Paradiso in Codogno
The church of Santi Teodoro
e Paradiso in Codogno
Travel tip:

Codogno, where Sergio Franchi was born, is a small city with a population of under 16,000 in Lombardy in the province of Lodi, to the south east of Milan. Codogno hit the headlines worldwide because of the Covid 19 pandemic. It was there that a 38-year-old Italian went to a clinic on 16 February 2020 reporting respiratory problems and it is thought the virus then spread from Codogno throughout Italy and the rest of Europe. The city was quarantined on 22 February 2020.

Il Torrazzo in Cremona is Italy's tallest bell tower at 112 metres
Il Torrazzo in Cremona is Italy's tallest
bell tower at 112 metres
Travel tip:

Cremona, to the south east of Codogno, was often thought to be Sergio Franchi’s home town, but he made it clear in interviews that he was born in Codogno but spent a lot of time in Cremona while he was growing up. Cremona is famous for having the tallest bell tower in Italy, il Torrazzo, which measures more than 112 metres in height. As well as being well known for producing the world’s best violins, Cremona is also famous for making confectionery. Negozio Sperlari in Via Solferino specialises in producing the city’s renowned torrone (nougat). The concoction of almonds, honey and egg whites was first created in the city to mark the marriage of Bianca Maria Visconti to Francesco Sforza in 1441, when Cremona was given to the bride as part of her dowry.

Also on this day:

1483: The birth of Renaissance genius Raphael

1901: The birth of social activist Pier Giorgio Frassati

1918: The birth of war hero Alberto Marvelli

1957: The birth of race-walking twins Maurizio and Giorgio Damilano

(Picture credit: church in Codogno by Ago56)


23 March 2020

Franco Battiato – singer songwriter

Long career of a musical philosopher

Franco Battiato's musical career encompassed different genres but retained philosophical and religious themes
Franco Battiato's musical career encompassed different
genres but retained philosophical and religious themes
One of the most popular singer-songwriters in Italy, Franco Battiato, was born on this day in 1945 in Ionia in Sicily.

Nicknamed Il Maestro, Battiato has written many songs with philosophical and religious themes. He has also had a long-lasting professional relationship with Italian singer Alice, with whom he represented Italy at the 1984 Eurovision Song Contest.

Battiato graduated from high school at the Liceo Scientifico Archimede in Acireale, a city in the province of Catania in Sicily.

He went to Rome and then moved on to Milan, where he won his first musical contract.

After his first single, La Torre, was released, Battiato performed the song on television. After some success with the romantic song E l’amore, he released the science fiction single La convenzione, which was judged to be one of the finest Italian progressive rock songs of the 1970s.  The albums of electronic music he produced in the ‘70s, obscure at the time, are now sought after by collectors.

His popularity grew after he moved away from progressive rock to a more mainstream pop style, producing music that was regarded as elegant, yet easy to listen to. His album La Voce del Padrone remained at number one in the Italian charts for six months, becoming the first Italian album to sell more than one million copies in a month.

Battiato had a successful partnership with the popular singer Alice
Battiato had a successful partnership
with the popular singer Alice
He began collaborating with the singer Alice and their duet, I treni di Tozeur, was performed at the 1984 Eurovision Song Contest.  His 1988 album Fisiognomica, which sold more than 300,000 copies, was considered by Battiato himself to be his best work

In 1994 Battiato began to collaborate with the Sicilian philosopher Manlio Sgalambro, who went on to write the lyrics for many of his albums.  In 1996 they brought out what is regarded as their best work, L’imboscata, containing the romantic hit, La cura, which was chosen as the best Italian song of the year.

In 2003, Battiato released his first feature film, Perduto amor, for which he also composed the soundtrack.  The film won the Silver Ribbon for the best debutant director.

In 2012 he accepted an offer to become the new regional minister for Tourism and Culture in Sicily but was subsequently fired after making controversial remarks.

Battiato continued making music and went on tour with Alice in 2016. He held his last concert in Catania in 2017 but then had to give up for health reasons. His manager announced his retirement from the music scene at the end of last year.  Battiato celebrates his 75th birthday today.

UPDATE: Franco Battiato sadly passed away in May 2021 at the age of 76, from an undisclosed illness. He was living in the village of Milo, on the eastern slope of Mount Etna and only 10km (six miles) or so from his birthplace, where he bought a villa in the 1980s.

The beach at Riposto, which became part of an area  that was renamed Ionia in 1942
The beach at Riposto, which became part of an area
that was renamed Ionia in 1942
Travel tip:

Ionia, where Franco Battiato was born, is an area in Sicily on the west coast, a little over 30km (19 miles) north of Catania. It was renamed Ionia in 1942, three years before Battiato was born. Under Fascist rule it had been named Giarre-Riposto in 1935.  Giarrre and Riposto had separated in 1841 but the Fascist government had decided to unite them again to form a larger conurbation. The railway station, which is part of the Messina-Catania railway, is still named Giarre-Riposto.  The original names were restored in 1945 after the fall of Mussolini and the end of World War Two.

The beautiful cathedral of Saint Peter in Acireale's historic  Piazza Duomo, which sits in the shadow of Mount Etna
The beautiful cathedral of Saint Peter in Acireale's historic
Piazza Duomo, which sits in the shadow of Mount Etna
Travel tip:

The historic coastal city of Acireale, where Battiato was educated, can be found 17km (11 miles) to the north of Catania at the foot of Mount Etna. Facing the Ionian sea, Acireale has many old churches, including the neo-Gothic St Peter’s Basilica in Piazza Duomo, the Baroque St Sebastian’s Basilica and Acireale Cathedral and seminary for the training of priests.  Acireale also has the oldest art academy in Sicily, the Accademia dei Dafnici e degli Zelanti.

Also on this day:

1514: The birth of assassin Lorenzino De’ Medici

1919: The Italian Fascist Party is launched at a rally in Milan

1922: The birth of actor Ugo Tognazzi


11 February 2020

Gianluca Ginoble – singer

Versatile baritone helps make Il Volo’s magical sound

As a small boy, Gianluca Ginoble used to sing in the bar owned by his grandfather
As a small boy, Gianluca Ginoble used to
sing in the bar owned by his grandfather
Gianluca Ginoble, a member of the hugely successful and award-winning Italian pop and opera trio Il Volo, was born on this day in 1995 in Roseto degli Abruzzi, in the Abruzzo region.

He is the youngest of the trio and the only baritone. The other two singers, Piero Barone and Ignazio Boschetto, are both tenors.

Gianluca’s family lives in Montepagano, a hilltop village overlooking Roseto degli Abruzzi. He is the oldest son of Ercole Ginoble and Eleonora Di Vittorio and has a younger brother, Ernesto.

Gianluca started to sing when he was just three years old with his grandfather, Ernesto, in the Bar Centrale, which Ernesto owns, in the main square of the town.

While still young, he took part in music festivals and competitions in his area, winning some and being distinguished in them all because of his beautiful deep voice.

In 2009, he won the talent show Ti Lascio Una Canzone on Rai Uno, singing  Il mare calmo della sera, which had been Andrea Bocelli's winning song at the 1994 Sanremo Music Festival. He was then just 14 years old.

Ginoble won a TV talent show when he was just 14 years old
Ginoble won a TV talent show
when he was just 14 years old
Piero Barone and Ignazio Boschetto also took part in the show and in one episode the trio performed together for the first time, singing the Neapolitan classic, O sole mio.

Afterwards, the director, Roberto Cenci, came up with the idea of putting them together to create music similar to The Three Tenors - Placido Domingo, Jose Carreras and Luciano Pavarotti - when they occasionally performed together.

They were initially named I Tre Tenorini - The Three Little Tenors -  but this was later changed to The Tryo. In 2010 their name was changed to Il Volo, meaning The Flight.

After producing several successful albums, singing in Italian, English and Spanish, Il Volo won the Sanremo Festival of 2015. They represented Italy in the 2015 Eurovision Song Contest in Vienna, finishing in third place, although they were the overwhelming 'winners' of the televoting element of the contest, with viewers in 14 countries awarding them the maximum 12 points, compared with only four maximums from the national juries.

In 2016, in collaboration with Placido Domingo, the trio released a live album, Notte Magica – A Tribute to the Three Tenors, featuring many of the songs performed by the famous threesome in their first appearance together on the eve of the 1990 World Cup in Italy.

Gianluca Ginoble (left), with Ignazio Boschetto and Piero Barone on the cover of Il Volo's latest album
Gianluca Ginoble (left), with Ignazio Boschetto and Piero
Barone on the cover of Il Volo's latest album
Gianluca Ginoble has been described as a ‘lyric baritone with a warm timbre.’ He is able to sing very low notes but also sing at the top of the baritone register with ease.

He has also been labelled a ‘Heldentenor’, a baritone with a strong upper register, suitable for singing roles in operas by Wagner.

Gianluca is known for his impersonations of the pop singer Eros Ramazzotti, but also among his favourite singers are Andrea Bocelli, Frank Sinatra and Mario Lanza.

A football fan, Gianluca used to play for his home town and has been referred to as the 'Maradona of Montepagano'. He supports AS Roma and is a fan of Francesco Totti.

Buy Il Volo's latest album 10 Years: The Best of Il Volo

Roseta degli Abruzzi, notable for its wide, sandy beach, is sometimes known as Lido delle Rose
Roseta degli Abruzzi, notable for its wide, sandy beach, is
sometimes known as Lido delle Rose.
Travel tip:

Roseto degli Abruzzi, where Gianluca Ginoble was born, is a town of the province of Teramo in Abruzzo. It is a beach resort on the Adriatic Sea and with a population of around 24,000 is the largest municipality in the province. A railway line running along the coast connects it with Pescara, about 30km (19 miles) to the south. The city of Teramo is about 30km (19 miles) inland, at the foot of the Gran Sasso mountain range. Roseto is a popular holiday location because of its lovely beach and is sometimes referred to as Lido delle Rose.

One of the ancient medieval gates of Ginoble's home village of Montepagano, in the hills above Roseta degli Abruzzi
One of the ancient medieval gates of Ginoble's home village
of Montepagano, in the hills above Roseta degli Abruzzi
Travel tip:

Montepagano, where the Ginoble family lives, is a medieval hamlet of Roseto degli Abruzzi, on top of a hill overlooking the sea. It is only six kilometres inland from the seaside resort but visitors feel they have stepped back in time when they go through the ancient city gates. There are winding streets with old palazzi and small squares to explore and stunning views of the sea and the mountains at different points. The vineyards below the town produce excellent wines that feature on the menus in the local restaurants. The 15th century Church of Santissima Annunziata, with its 40m (131ft) bell tower, is a major landmark.

More reading:

How grandfather discovered Piero Barone's singing talent

Andrea Bocelli - singer with perfect voice for opera or pop

How Eros Ramazzotti became one of Italy's biggest stars

Also on this day:

1791: The birth of architect Louis Visconti

1881: The birth of Futurist painter Carlo Carrà

1929: The Vatican becomes an independent state

1948: The birth of footballer Carlo Sartori